While heart-attack-inducing funnel cakes, overpriced roller coasters and doomed goldfish are all well and good, the star of the Sonoma County Fair is undoubtedly the flower show—the largest themed flower show in the United States, thank you very much. Featuring a mix of the region's best amateur and pro garden designers, past years have seen a mixed bag of extravagant themes, ranging from a Peanuts gang tribute to an underwater paradise, complete with larger-than-life fish hanging from the ceiling.
This year, flower show designer Greg Duncan takes a leaf from Spielberg's book and channels the colossal, the mighty and the extinct. "The Garden Time Forgot" offers fairgoers a shot at their own antediluvian adventure starring life-sized dinosaurs—many of which are actually being trucked here from their usual spots adorning roadside attractions across the country—waterfalls and a swamp with its own lost island.
Designer Duncan explains the land-before-time theme as having a continuing allure for both young and old.
"Dinosaurs have never gone out of fashion—for millennia," he says. "There's a timeless appeal to these creatures, and a theme like this allows us to use lots of unusual plants that create a sense of spectacle."
"Unusual" only begins to describe the greenery displayed in the exhibit. Landscapers have incorporated such ancient foliage as cycads and ginko trees, which both date back to prehistoric times, as well as installing a section entirely devoted to carnivorous plants.
The winning designer will be announced at the show's preview gala, a benefit for the fair's scholarship program and an exclusive chance to travel back in time before anyone else this summer.
The Sonoma County Fair kicks off Tuesday, July 28, but if the anticipation is unbearable, catch the flower show preview gala on Sunday, July 26, at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, 1350 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa. 6pm. $25. 707.545.4203.
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